Simidele Adeagbo is showing up and showing out for Nigeria by being the first black female to compete in skeleton. She always dreamed of being an Olympian and will compete in this years Winter Games in PyeongChang. There’s no doubt that sis has skills. The four-time NCAA All American/triple jump record holder for the University of Kentucky began her training in high school and even won seven individual state track championships. But despite her extensive background, she fell short of qualifying at the 2008 U.S Olympic Trials by a mere 8 inches. While she hung up her spikes and went on a ten-year hiatus, Adeagbo’s track training is serving her justice. Now she is back like she never left and with a new sport in mind.
“I thought it was an opportunity and second chance I couldn’t pass up, and it was in some ways uniquely designed and crafted for me,” Adeagbo said in an interview with Courier Journal. “I really thought, ‘Why not me, why not now? Somebody has to make history and I could be the person to do it.”
Her curiosity for the sport peaked while working as a brand manager at Nike in South Africa. She initially wanted to follow in the footsteps of other track stars turned bobsledders like Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams. After reading an article about Africa’s first-ever bobsled team she felt inspired and wanted to participate. She decided to keep her options open when she learned the Nigerian women’s bobsled team was already full with alternatives.
Adeagbo was scrolling through Instagram when she saw the post announcing tryouts for the Nigerian Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. She took a leap of faith and boarded the 22-hour flight from Johannesburg, South Africa to Houston, Texas. That’s when she really went to work. The tryouts consisted of everything she already mastered during her track and field days: speed (45-meter sprint), power (shot-put) and explosiveness (long jump).
“I honestly didn’t know much about the sport, but knew that there was a lot I could draw from my track and field background to help me succeed in it,” said Adeagbo. “In each, you run as fast as you can for about 30 meters to gain momentum before you launch into or onto something.”
Although she had the talent, she had to accelerate her training if she wanted to compete in PyeongChang. To qualify, an athlete must compete in five races on three different tracks in the last two seasons. While most skeleton athletes spend their first year preparing for new challenges, Adeagbo made sure she would qualify. Running on determination, she completed six races on four different tracks with the most recent being this past January in Lake Placid, New York.
“I have to treat it like any other race that I’ve done: prepare, trust in my plan and believe I can do it,” she said to Courier Journal. “If I have that approach I think I will succeed. It’s no different than any other competition in my life.”
Skeleton is a sport that requires the athlete to careen down an icy track at 80 mph. While Adeagbo is still relatively new, she has the full support of former coach Jim Holman.
She is currently ranked 84th in the world. We’ll have to stay tuned to see if she upgrades her title of Olympian to gold medalist. Regardless of what she walks away with she has already made history.
The women’s skeleton runs begin on February 16th and can be seen at 6:20a. Fans can tune in on NBCSN, 7:10-10:45a and NBC, 8 p.m.-midnight ET.